Would-be developer sues Wilk over holdings
Smuggler Mountain landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson was “double-dealing” with the city of Aspen in negotiating to sell his property as open space after entering into a deal to sell the land to a developer, according to a lawsuit filed last week in district court.
Starr Reserve at Smuggler Mountain LLC entered into an option agreement with Wilkinson to acquire his land holdings for $10 million, according to the lawsuit. In addition, Starr was to pay an additional $250,000 to cover a portion of Wilkinson’s outstanding legal fees and pay Wilkinson $20,000 a month while its option on the property was in effect.
The lawsuit contains several claims for damages, alleging that Wilkinson had been “secretly negotiating” with the city regarding a potential sale of his lands and had misled Starr Reserve regarding its ability to access any development on Smuggler via the Hunter Creek Valley. Wilkinson had also allegedly misrepresented the true acreage of his collection of mining claims; as a result, the $10 million purchase price was based on false assumptions, according to the suit.
Starr claims it discovered Wilkinson was talking with the city in March 2003.
It was then that The Aspen Times reported that an appraisal of Wilkinson’s land, initiated by the city, had placed its value at $8.1 million for about 136 acres. Shortly thereafter, the City Council authorized City Attorney John Worcester to offer Wilkinson an undisclosed sum for his property.
Worcester has declined to reveal the amount of the city’s offer and would not say whether it was more or less than Starr’s $10 million option.
Wilkinson ultimately rejected the city’s offer in October 2003. The City Council has not yet discussed whether it will pursue condemnation of the property.
According to the lawsuit, Starr’s option agreement prohibited Wilkinson from contacting city and Pitkin County officials regarding the Smuggler property except under limited circumstances.
Starr has suspended its option payments to Wilkinson, pending the approval of an amendment to the original option agreement. The company has drafted a proposed version of the amendment, according to the suit, but Wilkinson has refused to execute it.
Neither Wilkinson nor the attorneys for Starr could be reached for comment Monday.
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